MG 2949
Around the Bend

Around the Bend - May 2022


Dear Oxbow Friends,

It has been a few months since the Spring 2022 semester started, but it only feels like a few days have passed. (Sense of time at Oxbow can be a trickster.) Students are busy putting the finishing touches on their final projects in preparation for the upcoming Final Show on Saturday, May 14th. There is great excitement in the air! The Oxbow faculty, staff, and trustees are eager to greet families this weekend in celebration of each student’s success.

While the finished work will inspire the viewer, what a guest at the Final Show doesn’t see is the organized chaos that transpires behind the scenes – sprawling mind maps, research, writing drafts and pitching proposals, experimenting with new materials, faculty patiently guiding students through obstacles, the last minute crunch, the well-earned break, the choreographed installation, the carefully composed artist statement, and the dress rehearsal for the oral presentation. To give you a better understanding of the “work behind the work” from the student perspective, I sat down with a current student, Yuni, to discuss her creative inquiry and art-making process.

In the introduction to your research paper about the passage of time, you write: “My understanding of time is that we move through life as individuals and the time that we are currently living in marks the preceding and following periods as a past and future, respectively. However, I believe that different understandings of time influence the ways that people live or view their lives. Those who do not believe in the existence of a predetermined future may be more inclined to believe in free will. Those who view the past, present, and future as ontologically equal may be more easily inclined to have a broader perspective and more often see the big picture.” How did you decide on your topic? What inspired you?
As a child, I discarded each day with ease and rarely acknowledged the past or how it might affect my present. Today, however, I find myself thinking only about the past and try to understand myself through the lens of my past experiences. I decided on my topic because I was reflecting on my time at Oxbow and I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I would have an opportunity to grow in other places like I have at Oxbow. I am curious about how I can accomplish the same amount of work that I have been able to do here. I want to keep up that sense of accomplishment at home. I worry about whether or not I will continue to use my time well. It was hard for me when I first arrived at Oxbow because I saw all of these resources available to me, but there was a set amount of time in which I could use them. I felt pressured to work every day and I would get worried if I hadn’t accomplished something to demonstrate the passage of time. I have now realized that even without a tangible end product, I can still make significant progress, even if it is internal.
Your research encompasses many different theories about the notion of time. You studied everything from Reductionism and Platonism, Presentism and Eternalism, and Islamic and Buddhist philosophies. Where did your research path lead you in your own understanding of time?
At the beginning of my research inquiry, I perceived time as being in the present moment. I cannot change the past or the future, but I will always be in the present. Having read a lot of divergent viewpoints, I now have a much better understanding of how others perceive time as well as my own philosophy. My past and my future affect me in many ways, but “I” can be independent of that. The Buddhist understanding of time has had the most impact on me and I have intentionally been trying to stay away from looking at time numerically. Despite modern society’s emphasis on the future, I can slow down and appreciate the present moment. By noticing the small things around me, I can slow down how I experience time.
You were also inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms. Can you talk more about her work and its impact on you?
Her work is about continuity and repetition. The repetition makes the viewer notice patterns and, as a result, the space feels bigger. Initially, when I saw a glimpse of the door to one of her installations from the outside, my expectations weren’t very high, but once I stepped inside everything seemed so vast. That feeling of knowing I was literally inhabiting a small space, but experiencing so much expansiveness simultaneously was very interesting to me.
Describe your artwork/installation.
Similar to Kusama, I am making a sensory-based room that will feature light, mirrors, and sound. I am making many small bells out of tarleton and I will install lights inside of them. The room will be enclosed with mirrors on the walls and the lighted bells will shimmer against the mirrors to reflect light back onto the walls and around the space. There will be a sound component that will include the sound of ringing bells and wind-chimes. The overlapping sounds will induce a sense of peace.
How have you approached your project over the past few weeks?
I came up with the idea for my artwork first and planned backwards. When the final project was first introduced, I knew I wanted to design a “mirror room” and, based on my research about time, I then decided upon the elements I would put inside. Right now, I am cutting out circles of tarleton and shaping them into bells. The main challenge I have faced with this project was feasibility, for I didn’t know if I could pull off creating a whole room/environment. I want the work to feel very personal and I wasn’t sure I could do that on a big scale.
What has been one of your “a-ha” moments while you have been working on your artwork?
The biggest learning moment occurred when I was deciding how to visually translate the abstract theme of time into a physical space. Early on, I spent many nights engaged in reflective writing as a way to distill my ideas about time. Bells and wind-chimes kept standing out to me. My grandparents have a big bell collection and ever since I was a young girl I loved visiting them and ringing the bells. My immediate family has a lot of wind-chimes at home. When I think about home, I can hear those wind-chimes. These sounds represent two different types of home and my childhood upbringing; the nostalgic memories have inspired the decision to bring bells into the work. The mirrors depict the endlessness of the future. I like the idea of the past and future coming together in one room.
What questions are you asking the viewer to consider in this work?
“How much does the past affect you?” “How much do you honor the person you once were?” “Are you going to take your past self and take advantage of future opportunities?” If there is one thing I want people to take away from my work, it’s that you can slow time down. I want to emphasize that the more one invites play and contemplation into daily life, it will make the days feel longer. That’s been the most comforting thing to me as I prepare to leave Oxbow.
What have you learned about yourself as a creative thinker and artist over the past semester?
I have learned that someone doesn’t need technical skill to make something that holds a strong message or meaning. Early in the semester, I was impacted by the sculpture/painting multidisciplinary projects because a lot of the materials we used were found objects. I learned that everyday objects can come together to make different meanings for both the artist and the viewer. I have learned exciting ways to make sculptures and installations convey what I want them to.
Where are you headed next as an artist?
I am not sure, but I definitely want to collaborate with others. Being surrounded by my peers here has taught me the value of collaborating and seeing how others’ strengths connect with mine. I want to take advantage of what can happen when two or three people work together on a project.

To view the final work made by Oxbow students, please visit the gallery on our website here. The Spring 2022 work will be posted during the summer months.

Warm regards,

Jennifer Jordan
Head of School

A School Like No Other